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Exclusive Interview with Climate Cardinals: Bridging the Language Gap and Empowering Youths

Climate change is the most pressing challenge of our time. It is a global problem that requires a global solution. But how do we reach people all over the world with climate information, when there are over 7,000 languages spoken worldwide? And how do we empower young people? One organization working to answer these questions is Climate Cardinals, a youth-led non-profit that is translating climate information into over 100 languages while providing opportunities for youths to get involved in the climate action movement. In an exclusive interview, two senior directors at Climate Cardinals (CC) offered a deep dive into their work and personal journeys, sharing insights on how they are reshaping how people engage with climate information and empowering the youth to take action.
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Can you tell me a little bit about Climate Cardinals and what you do?
Climate Cardinals is a youth-led nonprofit organization with 10,000 volunteers from 80+ countries. We seek to provide youth with the opportunity to make a difference in the climate sector through educating others and increasing accessibility to climate change information. We have translated 1,500,000 words into 100+ languages with the invaluable support of our volunteers and partners at Google.
Climate Cardinals was founded in 2020 by Sophia Kianni, who first realized the need for climate translation while on a middle school trip in Iran. Sophia was shocked when she saw that the pollution in Iran was so bad she couldn’t see the stars at night. The more she read online about climate change in the Middle East, the more alarmed she became. Sophia brought up her concerns with her relatives but was shocked that knew almost nothing about climate change, due to the translation barrier. After reading Sophia’s translations, her relatives became supportive of Iranian environmental defenders and were eager to learn more about climate solutions. Sophia, now 21, is a Student at Stanford University, the Youngest UN Advisor and has been named Vice Human of the Year and has been listed in Forbes 30 under 30 and Teen Vogue 21 under 21.
Brooke Kries: I joined Climate Cardinals in 2020. I thought Climate Cardinals’ work in disseminating climate information through translation was very unique and important. Originally, I was a French translator, graphics designer, and Instagram team member. I now serve as a Co-Director of Social Media and the Lead Intake Coordinator. I have loved seeing CC grow over the years as we gain more team members and partnerships. It is an invaluable experience to work alongside such amazing people, while also learning more about climate change myself!
Outside of CC, I am a student at Dartmouth College studying History, Environmental Studies, and Human-Centered Design. I plan to become a lawyer in the future. In my free time, I do ballet, pilates, photography, and play the violin.
Brooke Kries
Brooke Kries

Anna Zhong: Hello! I’m Anna Zhong and I joined Climate Cardinals in March of 2023 to combine my passions toward artificial intelligence and climate solutions. I’m a Senior Director at Climate Cardinals and currently work across two teams as the Director of Artificial Intelligence and the Director of Ptera, the weekly email newsletter we run. I’m a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Anna Zhong
Anna Zhong

What are some of the ways that Climate Cardinals is empowering young people to take action on climate change?
Brooke: Climate Cardinals has empowered youth in several ways. CC provides many individuals with the opportunity to work with our organization, whether it be as a member of the research team, sustainable fashion team, partnerships team, social media team, etc. This allows us, as volunteers, to have a platform where we can learn from each other while also helping to educate a wider audience outside of our volunteer database. Through our partnerships, we have been able to translate information so that non-English speaking youth and individuals in general can have access to climate information. We want to focus on spreading educational content since providing youth with knowledge is a strong way of empowering them to take action on climate change. Further, we hope to continually help support other youth organizations and youth efforts since we will all be stronger working together to help our planet.
How do you think Climate Cardinals is changing the way that people engage with climate information?
Anna: First and foremost, we make sure people have access to climate information. Most of the world doesn’t speak English, but almost all scientific literature is only in English. People can only consume climate information if they have access to it – exactly what we’re working towards.
Additionally, Climate Cardinals highly emphasises the involvement of youth in the climate movement. Youth are (and should be) involved in spreading and engaging with climate information. We want to show how young people can learn about the climate, and based on that information, tackle climate issues in unique innovative ways.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your work at Climate Cardinals?
Brooke: The first challenge I would recognize is time. Climate Cardinals is mainly comprised of high school and college students. This means that we have other large time commitments. When I first joined Climate Cardinals, I was a high school student while also spending 30+ hours committed to a pre-professional ballet program. Because of our personal pursuits and education, all of us face the challenge of making sure we don’t overcommit ourselves; since we are all dedicated to CC’s mission, it becomes quite easy to try and complete more projects and take on more meetings than hours in the day. Not only this, but since we are a global network with volunteers around the globe, we also have to work with different time zones, schedules, etc. So, we all have to recognize that we can’t do everything and need to delegate tasks to one another!
The second challenge that we face with social media and graphics is making sure that our research presents an accurate image of situations. We don’t want to overgeneralize other cultures or present information that isn’t well researched, so we make sure that our posts filter through a research team and we also get input from other Climate Cardinals’ members. Since educational content is important to us, we want to provide our audience with the correct information so that they are well informed.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about climate change that you have encountered?
Anna: A big misconception about climate change is it’s a problem of the future, or in other words, a problem that we’re working to avoid. The truth is, it’s a problem of the present. We aren’t trying to avoid something of the future; we’re dealing with a climate crisis right now. Just this July, we’ve experienced Earth’s three hottest days on record. Currently, coastal regions are threatened by rising sea levels, food security is threatened by soil degradation, and limited resources are fueling tensions globally.
What advice would you give to young people who want to get involved in climate activism?
Brooke: If you are interested in climate activism, seek out opportunities to learn more and work with others. Don’t hesitate to join environmental organizations or clubs because you feel like you don’t know enough - we are all continuously learning from one another! When I first joined Climate Cardinals, I didn’t know a lot about climate change, but I have learned so much more from my peers and it led to my passion to pursue environmental studies in college. Further, don’t feel like because of your skillset you can’t make a difference. The climate movement relies on people with all kinds of experience, whether it be fluency in other languages, an eye for design, video editing skills, coding knowledge - the list is endless! Also, don’t feel like any action is too small; find ways to be more sustainable in your own life, educate your friends, join newsletters, research climate information, etc.
Anna: I define climate activism quite broadly because I’m a firm believer that by doing anything related to climate solutions, you have the potential to inspire others to do the same. To get involved, begin by finding something you love – whether it be computer science, art, maths, engineering, biology, chemistry, or pretty much anything – and explore it with full passion and decide on how you can make environmental change using your unique interests and talents. Climate solutions are interdisciplinary! You can be a computer scientist that creates an innovative technology or you could be a mathematician that models climate patterns. You don’t need to give up something you enjoy to get involved!
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